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“Star Trek: The Original Series-Seasons 1-3” {Blu-ray}
Reviewer:
Wayne Klein
Studio: Paramount Home Video
Genre:
TV-Series
Release Date:
12/15/09
Special Features:

Featurettes, Fly-around of the Enterprise

Review:

By the third season "Star Trek" was adrift without it's leader; Gene Roddenberry although still credited as "Executive Producer" had given control of the series to new producer Fred Frieberger when NBC moved the series to the black hole of Friday night at 10pm. The fan base for the series was either in bed or doing other things. That doesn't detract from the fact that the first two seasons are exceptional and that a couple of exceptional episodes slipped through the cracks. ***

Much of that carries over to the second season as well with episodes like "The Doomsday Machine" a taunt episode involving a planet killer that the Enterprise must battle benefiting from the new visual effects the most of all the episodes here. This episode suffered from what was clearly a burned and damaged AMC model kit to stand in for the damaged Defiant that the Enterprise encounters after the planet killer has attacked the ship. ***

The "Enterprise Incident" and those few episodes during the third season that had the budget (few during the thrid season)for more involved visual effects (and better scripts)benefit the most. "The Tholian Web" another outstanding episode from the third season also benefits from the new and improved visual effects and digital clean up without, again, detracting from the episodes. Other episodes such as the Gene L. Coon penned (under the name Lee Cronin) "Spectre of the Gun" actually benefit to some extent due to the limited budget with imaginative, surral sets that add to the "dream" like quality of the episode. ***

The packaging of the three seasons is simple which is refreshing after some of the imaginative but less than user friendly packaging of the previous DVD incarnations of these shows on DVD. ***

Although the quality of the writing, production, direction and even the acting (at times) fell during the third season without the guidence of Roddenberry, the final season found the crew of the Enterprise soldiering on and making the best with what they had. The first season is virtually flawless with top notch writing, direction and production even as the production crew found their way. ***

The second season is almost as good and some of the episodes from the second season top the best of the first season (or are at least as good)and while the strain of having to crank out the series on such a tight schedule was beginning to show, the team still managed to produce a strong second season that tackled episodes with a more diverse tone including episodes that were primarily humor driven ("I, Mudd", "The Trouble with Tribbles") that might not have been tackled during the first season. ***

The third and final season lost much of that risk-taking. While the third season was largely static looking with less involving camera movement, scripts and performances there was still enough imagination in the presentation (including in production design) that made it essential for fans of the series. I wouldn't lay the fall in quality directly on Fred Frieberger's and Arthur Singer's (the story editor for season three) doorstep but neither had the vision of Roddenberry, the budget of the first two seasons (the budget was cut for season three)nor the understanding of Roddenberry's universe to do the show justice. ---

Image & Sound:

All three seasons look stellar (I haven't written a separate review for season three yet). According to reports there's nothing different in this boxed set. Clarity is remarkably good with excellent definition throughout. Yes, there are the occasionally soft shots a lot of them are intentional (the use of a diffusion filter to “soften” wrinkles, etc. for close ups. ***

Paramount has done a brilliant job of restoring the episodes for the original series. Colors pop and the new visual effects while they don't seamlessly fit in all the time they also don't distract the series. Some of the visuals don't have the "weight" of the model work of the original series but the visuals are more fluid looking giving the Enterprise a grace missing from the original visual effects. ***

Audio sounds extremely good. Paramount has added elements to give the 5.1 mix a nice, wide surround effect. This includes re-recording the opening theme for the show (not every music cue was re-recorded however). Dialogue comes across with crystal clarity. ---

Special Features:

You can toggle between watching the new visual effects and original visual effects or choose to watch the episode with one or the other. There was no way to digitally clean up some of the artifacts that mar the presentation of the original visual effects. They look decent but are still as grainy looking as before so don't expect miracles. ***

Other extras can be read about here

http://www.dvdivas.net/movies/reviews/s/startrek-BLURAY-1season.html

and here http://www.dvdivas.net/movies/reviews/s/startrek-season-2-BLURAY.html

The most important extras for the third season is the newly discovered alternate edit of the pilot episode for "Where No Man Has Gone Before". We also get more of Billy Blackburn's "Treasure Chest" the behind-the-scenes home movies shot by the only extra that appeared in all three seasons. ****

The first season benefits from the digital facelift the most simply because the writing during the first season is virtually flawless with almost every single episode an example of top notch dramatic writing. The new visual effects producers have cleaned up the original matte paintings by the brilliant Albert Whitlock and/or replaced them with similar looking ones that don’t suffer from issues with perspective, etc. They’ve also added foreground and background action to various scenes giving the visuals a less static look. ***

The extras from the previous three season releases on DVD are included here (at least I didn't notice any missing). There are Billy Blackburn's home movies giving us a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the production on location.

Final Words:

This set (depending on when you purchase it) may be the more cost effective choice but be aware this isn't necessarily any more cost effective. The first season is stellar, the second season shines brightly and while the third increasingly fell into a black hole pulled in by the gravity of poor decisions made by NBC and Paramount at the time. Missing its creator the show floundered occasionally finding footing that is similar to what the production crew produced during the first two seasons.

 

 
 
 
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